Members of the public encouraging, hosting and participating in dog fights have been warned that the activity is not only grossly cruel but also criminal. Dog fighting related reports have been on the increase recently and pet owners and animal rights groups are concerned with the escalation.
Although the apparent escalation and increase in reports could simply be attributed to a heightened awareness leading to more reports – which would ultimately be a positive outcome – the possibility that the increase is due to increased dogfighting activity is equally possible.
Cape of Good Hope SPCA spokesperson Belinda Abrahams warns that the problem of dogfighting rings is not only a serious risk to the health and safety of animals but also to the communities involved.
“The big problem with dog fighting is that it’s not only about cruelty to animals – there are so many other criminal activities that take place at the site of a dog fight… You could be looking at anything from the trafficking of women to illegal gambling and there are always weapons because there’s money on the scene.
So the concern extends beyond the welfare of animals and to the welfare of communities as well.”
She is distressed by the common presence of minors in these dogfighting spaces and worries about the impact the dogfighting violence has on a community as a whole – especially with regard to the future of those youths witnessing and participating in these violent criminal rings.
“When children become desensitised to violence and are not taught to have compassion for all forms of life, these children are more likely to become involved in violent crimes against people in their later years,” said Abrahams.
Abrahams indicated that unfortunately for many pet owners and families, the SPCA regularly receives reports of stolen dogs – more particularly dogs belonging to the powerful breeds. She recommends that owners be cognisant of the risk of theft attached to owning such breeds and that they take protective measures accordingly.
“We have seen a lot of reports of animals being stolen – specifically power breeds because they are most likely to be used in dog fighting…”
Abrahams advised owners who want to mitigate the risks of theft for the purposes of dogfighting and breeding attached to owning powerful breeds to:
- Neuter pets “because then they’re less likely to be stolen for the purposes of dog fighting”
- Ensure animals are confined to the property
- Where possible, keep pets restricted to the back areas of the property where they are inaccessible and out of sight.
“All the videos we’ve seen of dog fighting really take a lot of courage to just watch…you can’t believe people really do it for entertainment…it’s a horrific thing to witness.”
“The Pitbull breeds specifically have very low levels of self-preservation and high levels of loyalty to their owners…these two traits are horrendously exploited to make a fight happen. A dog wanting to make its owner happy will do whatever it can and it doesn’t matter that they’re causing massive harm to themselves,” said Abrahams.
Abrahams explained that some criminals participating in these dogfighting rings even train their dogs in the cruellest ways. She described how some dogs are forced to grip onto a piece of a conveyer belt hanging in the air with burning hot coals underneath. The dogs are forced to strengthen their jaws in this way as they know if they let go they will suffer from severe burns and other potential injuries.
The Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz called on Neighbourhood Watches, Community Policing Forums and entire communities to play a role in stamping out this cruel practice.
“This can and should be done in partnership with the SAPS and SPCA. As the Department of Community Safety, we will investigate a holistic approach to address this social ill. We will further consult with key stakeholders and academic communities as part of the safety plan to develop a long-term holistic response to this issue.”
He said dogfighting is often linked to other forms of criminal behaviour such as illegal gambling, trade of illicit substances and exchanging of sexual favours.
“It is of great concern that young people are being drawn into dog fighting as they are seemingly being diverted into a life of criminality,” said Minister Fritz.
“I urge residents and parents to be vigilant. If anyone has any information on these harmful practices, they can report it to the Animal Welfare Society for South Africa’s headquarters on 021 692 2626. Additionally, this can be reported to the SAPS on 08600 10111 or SMS 32211.”